RUSTHOVEN: Mourdock one-ups even Akin

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RusthovenA few weeks back, Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin, channeling his frustrated inner M.D., said that when women are raped, their bodies react to prevent pregnancy.

Hoosier GOP Senate nominee Richard Mourdock has now decided to aim higher, saying in this week’s debate that, when rape causes pregnancy, it’s what “God intended.”

To quote Charlie Brown, “Good grief.” As Mourdock invoked the Almighty, let’s start with the bad theology.

Wrestling with why evil exists in a universe created by a good God is called “theodicy.” The best answer (oversimplifying) is that God endows humans with free will, giving us freedom to make good choices or bad ones. Our bad or evil choices have consequences, else our freedom is meaningless and we are less than human.

As C.S. Lewis observed, chickens automatically “cluck God’s praise,” but He made us something more, wanting us to choose to love and serve Him. God’s suffering the evil when we choose otherwise reveals how much He values our freedom.

But suffering bad choices and their results does not mean God “intends” them. God no more “intends” rape will impregnate a victim than He “intended” Adam and Eve to disobey in the Garden of Eden, or (millennia later) “intended” Hitler to slay millions of Jews.

Mourdock’s statement is also bad politics, even focusing just on the politics of abortion. The principled basis to oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest is not that “God intended” the pregnancy, but that the unborn child remains an innocent human being.

But rightly or not, most Americans disagree on the rape and incest issue, and this is not where pro-life conservatives should focus their efforts. Rape and incest, the “hard cases” always cited by pro-abortion folks, account for a tiny fraction of the millions of abortions each year, most of them disposing of unwanted consequences of consensual adult sex.

A majority now shares the view that abortion should not be freely available in all circumstances. Those of us who believe an unborn baby is always an innocent child should be willing to accept a rape and incest exception (favored by most Americans) if this is the price for ending what is effectively unlimited abortion on demand. Insisting otherwise sets back the pro-life cause, at potential cost of millions of lives.

Mourdock’s comment is also foolish in the larger political context. Our Senate race, which would have been a lay-down GOP victory had Mourdock not targeted Dick Lugar in the primary, is neck-and-neck. Earlier Mourdock statements—that his views of “bipartisanship” involve “inflicting” his views or making Democrats agree with Republicans—have driven away independents who backed Lugar.

The outcome turns on how so-called “Lugar Republicans”—including many certified Reagan conservatives like this author—will vote. Many of us believed Mourdock’s primary attacks on Lugar demeaned and distorted the record of a great Hoosier statesman, a principled conservative who was moderate and thoughtful in tone.

Mourdock then hurt himself further with an indefensible post-primary letter saying Lugar had “routinely betrayed conservatives.” And now we have his comment, which immediately went “national,” that when rape causes pregnancy, “God intended” it.

Before that comment, my sense was that Gov. Romney’s likely margin of victory in Indiana might tilt a tight Senate race toward Mourdock. Now, it’s not at all clear that will happen. More important, many Hoosier Republicans sitting on the fence are now more doubtful that it should happen.•


Rusthoven, an Indianapolis attorney and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, was associate counsel to President Reagan. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


  • Mourdock
    I really appreciate the moral instruction from Peter Rusthoven on rape and abortion. And quoting C. S. Lewis makes Rusthoven an intellectual giant as well as a superior theologian. Richard Mourdock was asked a question involving rape and abortion which is why he got into that topic in the first place. Was it a mistake? Yes it was. But the God I worship and believe in intends for all human beings to exist. Since we have “free will”, not all children are conceived from a loving sexual relationship. I do not believe God intends for anyone to be conceived from rape but I also believe that the human beings that result from that horrible crime are given life by God and therefore “intended” just as was Peter Rusthoven. The larger point is that, regardless of the wisdom of tackling such a difficult subject with 30 seconds to answer, is that it takes a disgusting political animal to deliberately mis-construe a remark about rape and abortion into something that was not said and was not intended. In addition, for the media in this area to not point out what Joe Donnelly is doing is journalistic malpractice. I guess avenging the defeat of Richard Lugar is just too important for scions of IBJ and other media. Regardless of whether one supports Richard Mourdock as I do, Joe Donnelly has proven he lacks the character to serve as a United States Senator. I wouldn’t trust Joe Donnelly to watch my dead dog. And I won’t take my moral instruction from the likes Peter Rusthoven.
  • Lugar Republican Not Mourdock Republican
    Mourdock is an embarrassment to the State and to the GOP. He's gotten much worse than when I had 2,500 "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Lugar" bumper stickers printed. When Mourdock supporters tell me "He's an idiot but he's my idiot" I know we are in trouble.
  • Romney's Shame
    The fact that Rep. Richard Mourdock believes that all raped women should be legally required to carry their rapists babies because they are "Gifts from God" is horrifying but the fact that Mitt Romney is publicly and officially endorsing him is dangerous for every single American citizen.
  • All Anti-choicers as irrational, anti-woman as Mourdock
    "Wrestling with why evil exists in a universe created by a good God is called 'theodicy.' The best answer (oversimplifying) is that God endows humans with free will, giving us freedom to make good choices or bad ones." No, the best answer is that this good, all-powerful god doesn't exist. And let's not kid ourselves, the good politics of granting a rape and incest exception would still result in an effective ban on all abortions. For a woman would still need to prove that she was the victim of rape or incest, a far from simple prospect that, even if possible, could take her far longer than the limited time she has to receive abortion care.
  • Gads
    The Governor has NOTHING to say to concerned women. The Governor has shown us time and time again what kind of leader he would be when the going get's tough. EVERY TIME there seems to be an issue that is 'hard', he avoids it like the plague. His mode of operation seems to be that if he just avoids anything 'tough' people just give up and move on to something else. That is not leadership, that is extremely weak and spineless. This is a man HE ENDORSED this week for high office and will oversea womens health legislation, and NOW he has 'no comment'. 'Gods WIll' has NO place in the same sentiment as 'rape'. Not even in some abstract Lenny Bruce joke. My boy just returned in August from whatever it is they are still doing in Iraq, and we SEND kids overseas to combat extremism brought around by the 'Gods will' mentality. It has ZERO place here at home in the US Government. Governor Romney is a disaster, you can not like the President, but at least he takes stands and you know where he stands on stuff like this. The Governor is acting like a pathetically weak and spineless chicken. Expect for Governor Romney to continue him to exhibit ZERO leadership when it is needed.

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